Echo Bridge Home Entertainment // 2007 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 23rd, 2007
Oh, you'll pay all right.
A cool title, a moderate amount of gunslinging, and a generous helping of former Western stars is about it as far as it goes for checks in the plus column, in what it is ultimately a hugely lame frontier outing.
Hell to Pay focuses its story on two brothers, Kirby (Kevin Kazakoff) and Chance (William Gregory Lee). Kirby is a Union soldier, sojourning out west to make a life for himself, following the Civil War. He's soft-spoken and reluctant to wage violence after his experience in the war soured him to the notion. His brother, Chance, besides being afflicted with a corny name, is a volatile, emotional man, with an eye for the ladies and an unhealthy addiction to gambling.
Kirby finds corruption and greed in the small mining town he lands in, and a town's populace menaced by a gang of murderers wearing potato sacks over their heads. Meanwhile, he and his brother clash over their feelings toward a woman with huge hair, before Chance eventually confesses his love for a whore. A little bit, later there's a gunfight.
Ugh, no more...please. I yield. That's what I was screaming at the screen toward the end, as this lumbering, low-grade Western mercilessly came to a close. Hey, maybe I'm not a Western purist, and perhaps there are those of you out there who would gladly consume anything that Buck Taylor and Lee Majors appear in, but this movie was about as enjoyable as an afternoon of bare-back horse riding.
There were three major elements that tormented the film and made me hate myself: the acting, the music, and the amateur execution. Other important stuff like plot and character development grated on me as well -- the confusing, slow-placed story was a hodge-podge of the typical Western grist, greedy bankers, Native American suffering (starring people who looked more like cashiers at an Italian deli than authentic Native Americans), frontier racism, and horny cowboys -- but they weren't complete cripplers. But these were:
Just awful. The spoken dialogue was more wooden than the hide of a stagecoach. Is anyone able to read a line without sounding a) disinterested, b) talent-free, c) seven, or d) drunk? Not one actor jumps to mind. Hell to Pay is a like a 100-minute string of rejected dramatic screen tests for a porno.
Horrendous. Probably the worst score to a film I've ever heard. And I've seen Voyage of the Rock Aliens. I am not a skilled enough writer to accurately describe how painful the cheesy, faux-sweeping, third-rate Lifetime Movie of the Week melodies were, but I'll try: if the score of Hell to Pay was a deranged, drug-addled hobo and my ears were a hapless passerby, I'd be stabbed to death by now.
Hey, is that a boom mike? Why, I think it is!
This movie is just not entertaining. The action is limited and even when the guns are fired, the choreography dictates that everyone stand still, face each other, and pull the trigger until someone overacts and dies slowly. I didn't care at all about the confounding relationships, and the brother/brother dynamic felt shallow and short-changed. I have a better idea to get your Western kicks: chew tobacco and don't shave for a week.
The sub-par DVD treatment does little to salvage the operation. Video quality is passable, though the non-anamorphic widescreen is crap. A 5.1 surround mix is wasted because all anyone does in this movie is talk. Director Chris McIntyre gives a fawning, encyclopedic commentary, mainly focused on how great the old Western stars in his movie were, and two featurettes are dedicated to cast interviews and a look at the Single Action Shooting Society. Awesome!
Lousy production values, music, acting, story and, well, everything else; run from this thing as if it were a brush fire.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Director's Commentary
* "Western Legends" Cast Interviews
* "The Single Action Shooting Society" Featurette